Iowans who haven’t yet gotten their flu shots still have time to get vaccinated and be covered for the season. State epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says this is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and while everyone’s scurrying to prepare for the holidays, they need to be sure and add this item to their “to-do” list.

Quinlisk says, “We need to get people to get vaccinated pretty quickly because the flu is here in Iowa. It is starting to spread around. We want people to have time to get the vaccine and get their immune system to respond so they have protection against the flu this year.” She says the flu isn’t just a winter inconvenience, but a serious illness that kills hundreds of Iowans every year and causes thousands to be hospitalized.

Quinlisk says “When we go back and look in our death records, it’s actually close to a thousand people die each year in Iowa from flu and complications. People think about the flu as something not so big to get concerned about but they’ve got to realize that it is a killer and it’s basically a killer of the very young and the very old.” She says Iowans on both ends of the age spectrum need to get a shot.

Quinlisk says “We’re used to thinking about the elderly needing their flu shots but what we don’t realize is especially young children have about the same rates of being hospitalized as the elderly for the flu, so we need to get those kids vaccinated, too.” In past years, flu vaccine has been scarce in Iowa but she says manufacturers are producing record amounts of vaccine this year. Quinlisk says “We have heard there’s been a little bit of a slow distribution of it but we’re hearing now that most places have vaccine and have good supplies of it so you should be able to call your health care provider or some of the local organizations or your local health department and get your vaccine.”

Besides getting the shot, she says Iowans can reduce the risk from flu and other winter respiratory illnesses by: frequent hand-washing, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and staying home from work or school when ill.